Pain pain go away – and don’t come back another day …

It’s amazing how little value we attach to a good night’s sleep. Rather than investing in a new bed or high quality natural bedding, we spend our money on fancy household goods, often neglecting our bedroom environment. However, statistics show that back pain affects almost 80% of South Africans at some point in their lives and the major cause for this is sleeping in discomfort.Add to the list cranky moods, headaches and neck pain, all common symptoms of a bad night’s sleep. And, since you spend about a third of your life sleeping, it’s essential you take the time to create a sleep environment that is as relaxing to be in as it is conducive to setting the stage for sleep.

Sleeping in comfort

According to Corné van Breemen, Managing Member of Good Night Linen, you should consider your bedroom as your own personal refuge and retreat from the noise, stresses and strains of everyday life. “The quality and length of your sleep is affected by your sleep environment,” she says. “Sleep comfort is essential to getting a good night’s rest so that you can awaken physically and emotionally re-energised, ready to face a new day.” Lise Parry, Buying Manager of Loads of Living agrees; “We don’t really need be told we perform better after a good night’s rest, we know it. For starters the ideal sleeping temperature based on scientific evidence is 18 to 23°C. Products made from natural products, such as linen, cotton or silk are the best – they remain cool in summer and do not cause the level of perspiration synthetic fabrics do. The same goes for natural inners, which allow for breathability – ensuring body heat is kept inside the covers in cold weather and allowed to escape naturally in hot weather.

Choose your sheets, mattresses and pillows wisely

When it comes to sheets, mattresses and pillows, there is no one-size-fits-all. Everyone has different needs and preferences, so it might be challenging to find the type of fabric, filling, weight and texture that works best for you. “To make it a little bit easier, concentrate on how the product makes you feel and affects your sleep comfort, rather than the colour, pattern and style,” says van Breemen. Interior consultant, Anna Correia suggests visiting an array of retailers to conduct a ‘rest test’, to lie on an array of beds in your usual sleeping position. When choosing a mattress, do your research and then try them out with your sleeping partner, adds Parry. “Matresses can be an expensive investment, so make sure you are happy with your choice and that it caters for your needs,” she says. “When it comes to pillows, they all pretty much look the same to the untrained eye, but if you peek beneath the covers, you’ll find a bewildering array of fillings, such as soft, traditional down and feathers, latex foam, polyester gel and memory foam – even such exotic materials as buckwheat hulls.” Parry explains that even though comfort is of primary importance, it should not be your only consideration. You also have to think about neck support, potential allergens and long-term durability. As a general guide, if you sleep on your back, you should have a firmer mattress than those who sleep on their stomachs and a soft supporting pillow is recommended for stomach sleepers versus a firm support for those who are side sleepers.

Good bed for good health

Dr Guy Ashburner, Cape Town Osteopath on behalf of the osteopathic profession recommends using a firm mattress over the use of a soft feather mattress. “A good bed needs a surface that allows you to sink into it a little so that your curves and body shape may be accommodated. The major function for a bed is to provide a comfortable neutral position for the spine. A medium firm mattress is the recommended optimum firmness,” he says. “A mattress which seems perfect in one position actually might cause some strain on your back in another one so it is important to spend sufficient time in each position to establish how it really feels.” He also suggests talking to your osteopath or specialist about the best sleeping postures for you, which will lessen the impact on your neck and lumbar spine. The best sleeping position will depend on the level of pain you are suffering with, as well as your specific diagnosis. If you don’t have a diagnosis for your neck, back and shoulder pain it would be advisable to address this first by consulting with your local osteopath. “Pillows also play a big role in the quality of your sleep, and once again it is a good idea to consult with your osteopath about this topic and then follow their recommendations,” he says. “Essentaily your spine needs to be in a neutral position. So if you are laying on your side the space between the side of your face and the bed needs to be filled with a pillow. Too much or too little pillow will cause your neck to bend in an awkward fashion causing potential neck strain. If you are lying on your back one small pilow will suffice. Too many pillows caused the neck to flex forward and create strain.”

R&R in the bedroom

“A bedroom is a place for relaxation and rest and so, soothing, subtle colours of the softer tones of naturals, greens, blues, greys, pink and white work best,” says Correia. “In addition to colour, wall to wall carpeting creates a warm and comforting feel.” She also adds that windows also need to be decorated to suit the space and that curtains be lined with block-out lining to darken the room for optimal sleeping. “Not only do they block out sunlight, they also assist in noise absorption. Lighting also plays a role and bedside lights will always be a part of the equation. Choose these well, especially if you like to read before bed and make sure your lamp is adjustable,” she says. “And, if you’re not an avid reader then a standard lamp and shade is the way to go.” She also suggests getting rid of all the clutter in your bedroom and keeping the space a ‘no-TV-zone’. “My absolute pet hate are TVs in a bedroom as they interrupt the look and feel of a space that is meant to be calming. Rather surround yourself with books and magazines that will help you to unwind from a long day.” Dr Ashburner points out the importance of sleeping in a completely darkened room. “Light during the night depresses your immune system,” he says. “Even a dim source like a bedside clock or a night light may switch melatonin production off, so keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Quality sleep has been linked to balanced hormone levels and an improved mood.”

Bedding and sleeping disorders

A great incentive to spend money on a pillow is one that guarantees snoring to stop. Says Parry; “Almost all treatments for snoring revolve around clearing the blockage in the breathing passage. Pillows can assist with that – there are occasions wherein snoring is the result of wrong sleeping position. Sometimes, sleeping with too many pillows can stretch and narrow the air passage. Using one, well-selected pillow can avoid that. Also, lying on the back can cause snoring. So, a change in sleeping position can be a good help.” Parry also believes that if your bed is uncomfortable or your linen doesn’t keep you cool when it should, then you might suffer from insomnia, which is often a symptom of another problem, such as stress, anxiety, depression, or an underlying health condition. Van Breemen also points to allergies as another hindrance to a good night’s sleep. “Allergy to feather pillows and pet hair are a common cause of severe snoring. If you have feather bedding, you may well find that by changing to synthetic fiber filled bedding you can eliminate the snoring overnight. Similarly, you may be allergic to pet hair and your snoring may be worse if your pet has been in your bedroom or sitting on your bed.”

Busting the bedding myths:

MYTH: the higher the thread count, the higher the quality.“This is not true,” says van Breemen. “Cotton sheets are preferred choice because they’re smooth and cool against your skin and quality depends on the yarn used and the finishing process that the fabric is subjected to. Additionally, anything higher that 400-thread count becomes un-washable due to the inability of the water to pass through the fabric.”

MYTH: mattresses and pillows never need replacing.“It is advisable to change your mattress every five to ten years. If your mattress looks tacky, worn out and dented and you are not having a good night’s sleep on it, then you know it is time for a new mattress,” says Correia. “ As for pillows, I would advise changing every five years. This is a personal issue, as many of people hang onto their pillows for life! Once the foam has worn out and becomes lumpy or the feathers are not maintaining and your neck or shoulders are constantly in pain, then you know it’s time to replace your pillows.”

MYTH: Any old mattress or pillow will do the job“Your back supports a complex system of vertebrae, discs, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves – and our spine is naturally designed to work well in an upright position, but the moment we lie down on beds and pillows that fail to provide proper support, the spinal components are subjected to considerable stresses and tension. This lack of back support can aggravate an existing “bad back’ condition leading to back pain problems and costly visits to chiropractors,” says van Breemen.

MYTH: All ‘orthopaedic-quality’ beds are the best types of beds to purchase.“Be aware that ‘orthopaedic’ quality beds are usually too hard,” says Dr Ashburner. “The harder the bed is not necessarily the best for your body. Too hard or too soft is not the answer. Find a comfortable bed surface that can support you and then the rest of the mattress should be firm enough to stop you sinking in to too far.”

When the bedbugs bite…

Bedbugs can enter your home through luggage, clothing, second-hand beds and furniture and other items. Because of their tiny size, they are difficult to detect as they hide in nooks and crannies, only coming out at night to feed on your blood. Your home might be immaculate, yet not free of bedbugs as they are not a sign of your space being dirty. They are mainly active at night and bite while you are asleep.

Signs you’re sharing the bed with bedbugs:

  • Blood stains on your sheets or pillow cases.
  • Dark spots of bedbug excrement, egg shells or shed skins in areas where they hide.
  • An offensive or musty smell in your bedding.

Getting rid of bedbugs:

  • Clean bedding, linen, curtains and clothing in hot water.
  • Scrub down your mattress seams before vacuuming.
  • If all else fails, call the exterminator.

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